Chapter 83: Distressed Damsel

In the dead silence of the moonlit forest, its wildlife went about their night. Deer grazed, wolves hunted, and the owls watched it all. They all gave a wide berth to the prowling Grimm, the beasts' very presence ensuring that they were left alone.

Suddenly, a quick flash of red and green streaked overhead. Grimm and animal alike looked skyward, only to see faint wisps of a light trail already fading. The Grimm let out low growls, hisses, and chirps, feeling the fleeing traces of Fear and Desperation blink past. Before they could act on these feelings, a thunderous boom sounded. Trees were torn bare of their leaves, wildlife scattered in confusion, and Grimm howled in rage as a funnel of wind tore through the forest, continuing its destructive path as it streaked behind the jets of light.

Ruby paid no mind to the trail of chaos she and Penny left in their wake as they tore through the sky. She just kept her eyes on the horizon, waiting for the Manta to pop into view. Every few seconds she would blink, not from the wind buffeting her, but to see the tiny speck of light through the Link, ensuring to her that, despite the vast nothing they flew through, they were flying in the right direction.

...flying.

She was flying.

On the back of a Nevermore. Her Nevermore.

Hers.

Because she summoned it.

A giddy feeling bubbled in her chest.

She'd summoned the Nevermore. And it listened to her. Something Winter said she shouldn't be able to do. Something Weiss still couldn't do. Something impossible.

And yet she did it. And looking back, it wasn't even that hard. Confusing and complicated, for sure. But now that she'd done it, she had little doubt she could do it again. That she could show Weiss.

Weiss was the smartest person she knew. If Ruby could figure out summoning so easily, it had to be because she stumbled through some angle of it Weiss hadn't considered, her or Winter. Once she showed Weiss how she'd done it, she knew the heiress would have no problem picking it up. She could show Weiss how it felt to have the wind in her face, the Nevermore's wings beating beneath her feet.

Because she had to share this with Weiss. With Blake, with Yang. They had to know how incredible this felt, up in the sky, moving faster than she'd ever gone. She'd never moved this fast before, not for more than a few seconds. And while she could feel herself tiring, it was different from usual. There were no aches in her muscles, just a constant faint draining feeling, like she was getting sleepy more than anything.

Not that there was any risk of her falling asleep. How could she, with her blood pumping, the landscape screaming by below her? Her whole body was alive, literally sparking with speed and no sign of slowing down

It was perfect. It was exhilarating! It was... It was…

Muted.

The bubbly feeling in her chest died, and with it the tiny smile that had wormed its way onto her face. Because this? All these feelings? They were tainted. Ruined, because instead of doing the impossible to help her girlfriend's training, she'd forced herself to do it to save her life.

A small voice in the back of her head (one that sounded suspiciously like Yang's), told her that when she caught the person who ruined this for her, she needed to make her anger known. Loudly.

Beneath her feet, she felt a shudder run through the Nevermore's frame as it let out a low growl, as if reflecting her frustration.

Ruby glanced down at the creature's action. This... was not how Weiss or Winter described how a summon should work. The following orders part, yeah, but...they never mentioned that the summon would have this much... attitude.

Unless I messed something up making it, Ruby thought ruefully. Wouldn't exactly be a surprise.

Not that it mattered. The Nevermore...

...she really needed a name for the thing. Just calling it The Nevermore, even in her head, just felt off given how it wasn't just another Grimm. What had Yang yelled out when she tackled it before? Speedymore?

...heh.

That's actually kind of cute.

Speedymore seemed just as focused on saving Weiss as she was, if the way its glowing silver eyes bored into the horizon-line meant anything. Every now and then it would give a great beat of its wings, its body tensing as it straightened out as to gain even the barest hint of speed.

Movement at her right broke Ruby's thoughts. She glanced over to see Penny carefully tilt her body to the side, gently drifting closer while minding the high speeds. If she minded the blistering wind battering her in the face, she didn't show it.

"Ruby!" she called out over the wind, an electric reverb in her magnified voice. Her eyes glowed brightly with information, the slightest hint of relief cracking through her determined facade. "I'm picking up an Airship signal on my sensors! At our current speed, we will overtake it within fifteen minutes!"

Ruby felt her heart leap even as it hammered away. She looked back towards the starry horizon, dimly aware of the forest thinning out below them, giving way to grassy plains. The hint of a mountain range rose in the distance, and she faintly wondered just how far they'd traveled from Beacon.

She ignored those wandering musings with a vengeance, burying them under one single thought: they were so close.

Ruby gave Penny a nod. She pulled hard on Crescent Rose, hauling herself so she could lean further forward, urging her summon to move faster.

"Let's go, Speedymore!"

In response, the Nevermore let out a screeching roar, its wings beating a furious thunderclap, Penny's engines whirling higher in answer as they streaked through the sky.

Hang on, Weiss. We're coming for you.


Everything was wrong.

She'd just been wandering the clearing while the others slept, marveling at the strange plant life and distant landscapes when a sharp cry pierced through the peaceful air. She flinched as it echoed through the clearing and Beyond, her ears pinning back and her tail lowering between her legs. For a moment she thought the Beast had returned, but the sound didn't match. The Beast's bellowing was deep, a sound that shook the very ground. This was higher, ear-splitting. Something that made the air quiver and her blood freeze. This was something new.

Then the shadow passed overhead.

She hunched down in surprise, her body tensed like a coiled spring. The sky seemed to dim, the colors of the forest muting as she scanned the clearing, searching for any sign of the new creature. But she saw no form, heard no wing-flaps. When a second cry sounded, she bolted back to the others.

Her heart jumped when she saw them.

When she'd left them, the three had been slumbering peacefully laying in a haphazard pile under the shade of a nearby pine. Now they'd separated, fitfully twitching in their sleep as they made stressed yips and mewles. The panther and lioness trembled and shook, faint trails of moisture soaking the panther's face, while the wolf's legs kicked and jerked at odd angles randomly, huffing whines passing her lips with every breath.

Desperate, both for their safety and her fear, she tried to wake them, pawing at their faces and even biting the paw of the lioness. Nothing worked. Letting out a distressed wine, she squeezed her way under the panther's foreleg, pressing tightly against the big cat's chest in the hopes of letting her know that she was not alone. She clenched her eyes shut, wishing that whatever was happening would just end.

She didn't know how long she stayed like that, listening to their cries as the sky turned grey, the once distant mountains now seeming to loom right over her. This wasn't right. Even when the Beast roamed these woods, it was never like this. This was a nightmare, one she wished she could just wake up from.

Her head shot up, her eyes going wide.

That... that's right. This... this isn't real. This is a dream. That dream. And... and that means-

She yelped as the paw around her tensed, the panther clutching her closer in it's fitful sleep. She looked up, staring at the large cat as if seeing it for the first time.

The panther... Blake.

Her head swiveled towards the other two, her breath quickening as the thoughts slotted into place.

That means... the wolf… is Ruby. And the lioness… Yang!

She then looked down at herself, at her white-furred paws and silky plumed tail.

A fox…

Here, I'm a fox. But my name… is Weiss.

My name is Weiss!

She clenched her eyes shut, putting her paws over her head, ignoring another frightful call from the woods, low and distant.

My name is Weiss! And this... this is wrong, but it's a dream. Just a dream! One I need to wake up from!

Wake up, Weiss.

Wake up!


Weiss awoke with a gasp, her chest feeling like it was on fire.

Her body felt sluggish, the now-familiar numbness of painkillers and sleep aids still clearly in her system. When she opened her eyes, she was met with a blurry mass of dark gray dotted with blue lights. Nothing like Beacon's Infirmary or the sickbay of the Atlassian flagship.

As she tried to blink the blurriness out of her eyes, she instinctively went to press a hand against her aching head.

A sudden tightness against her arm stopped it dead, along with her heart.

Now wide awake, Weis frantically looked down at herself. Surprise turned to panic as she saw three straps, two across her midsection and one across her legs, tying her to some kind of gurney. She instinctively pulled against her bonds, her panic growing by the second.

"Please do not struggle against your restraints."

Weiss froze at the deep, monotone voice.

"Excessive movement could exacerbate your injuries."

Her head snapped to the side, and she was met by a flat featureless face of white metal and black polymer hovering over her.

Weiss flinched back as far as her bond allowed. Her eyes widened as she looked the figure up and down, taking in its sleek frame. "You… you're one of the robots I saw last month," she muttered numbly.

The robot cocked its head to the side, then straightened its posture to attention. "Encounter possible. This unit is of the Atlassian Knight-200 line, newly introduced to protect the kingdom and capital of Vale."

Shock briefly jolting her from her panic, Weiss frantically looked around. She seemed to be in a circular room, wide enough for 20 people to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Around the room were four other knights, stationed at even intervals facing her, each standing at attention with rifles at the ready. At the far end of the room was a tapered out section, where two seats faced a large window, one more bot sitting with its back to her.

Her heart thumped hollowly as she focused on the window. It showed a starry night against an unfamiliar mountainous landscape. Mountains that seem to be getting larger.

Closer.

This isn't a room, she realized with numbing dread. It's a ship.

"Where…" Weiss rasped as her breathing quickened, the pain in her chest rearing its ugly head. "Where are you taking me?"

The knight seemed to consider her for a moment, then lifted its head, as if breaking eye contact. "That information is classified."

Weiss could feel the panic overtaking her, her breaths growing sharper and choppier. The last thing she remembered was her team visiting her in the infirmary, drifting off to sleep as Yang recounted some antic involving Nora and Cardin in combat class. Where… where was everyone? Why was she alone? Why-

Shock. Fear. Hope!

Weiss's breath hitched. Ruby?


Ruby gasped at the sudden rush of Confusion, Terror, Panic that ripped through the Link. "Weiss," she rasped breathlessly.

"Ruby?" Penny yelled out in alarm as the Nevermore slowed slightly, angling closer to hear better. They were nearly over the mountain range now.

"Weiss is awake!" Ruby called back. She tried to send back some form of Comfort, her chest aching from Feeling Weiss's Fear.

Penny's eyes widened, then her face hardened with purpose. "We are at ten minutes and closing!" She yelled, eyes locked on the horizon.

Ruby nodded. "Got it. C'mon, Speedy!"

With a shrill cry in acknowledgment, Speedymore picked up speed and the two streaks blazed across the sky.


Relief. Fear. Determination. Certainty.

Weiss's pulse slowed slightly as she let Ruby's presence wash over her. She let her eyes slip closed, tilting her head back to peer through the void.

Oh… oh, gods, she thought when she saw the yellow and violet lights twinkling in the distance. Blake's was positively miniscule, And Yang's!

Just how far from Beacon was she!?

But Ruby… while still a frightful distance away, it was slowly growing by the second. Somehow, Ruby was drawing closer, and somehow… Weiss believed Ruby would save her. Whatever was happening… it was bad, but she wasn't alone. Not really. She had to believe that.

She had to.

Holding desperately to that spark of hope, Weiss took a shaky, steadying breath. She opened her eyes, meeting the passive gaze of the knight looming over her. While she waited for Ruby to arrive, she might as well get some answers, maybe distract the bots if she could. She willed her voice to level as she spoke. "Why am I here?"

The knight tilted its head down to meet her eyes. "You are being transported to the drop off location."

Weiss swallowed thickly. "And where is that?"

"That information is classified."

Weiss let out a hysteric huff, laying her head back against the gurney in frustration. She wracked her brain, trying to recall as much about these robots as she knew. Hadn't she listened to Winter complain about them before? Before she went to Beacon?


"But aren't robot soldiers better than human ones, Winter?"

"For large scale combat, perhaps, to help fill the ranks. But I wouldn't trust them with my life. They follow every order to a fault and can be tripped up by simple concepts that no living being would struggle with. They can't react or improvise like you or I can. A living soldier is simply more versatile in every way."

"But… that's not what Father says?"

"...Father says a lot of things, Weiss."


Outside of cringing at her past naivety, Weiss wasn't sure how much use that memory was. Those were complaints Winter always had of the 100 line of knights. The 200s were the latest and greatest the SDC was capable of. Surely those problems had been fixed, right?

Weiss struggled against the straps again, before giving up with a huff.

It's not like I have any better ideas. Resigning herself, Weiss took a calming breath, keeping her face flat as she looked back at the knight. Okay, let's start with something small. "Why am I restrained?"

The knight didn't even move as it responded. "It is standard procedure for passengers in critical condition to be safely secured during flight."

Weiss's brow furrowed. "But I'm not in critical condition. I haven't been for a week!"

The knight paused, then said, "Incorrect. Excerpt from Weiss Schnee medical records:" The knight's monotone voice then shifted to that of a clinical female one, one Weiss recognized as that of Ironwood's chief medical officer. "Patient suffered perforation of the chest cavity from a splintered, aura-infused single-bladed weapon. The patient has been stabilized but remains in critical condition due to severe degenerative damage of the right lung."

Weiss felt a chill, and not just from hearing just how much damage Taurus had done to her. "Where… where did you get that recording? How do you have my medical records?"

"The medical records of Weiss Schnee were provided to assist these units in the completion of their assigned mission."

Weiss held her tongue, thinking over how to word her next question. "And… what mission is that?"

"That information is classified."

Weiss cursed under her breath. Out of frustration, she snippily asked, "Why is it classified?"

The knight remained silent for a moment, then replied. "The mission objective contains sensitive information about target and mission assigner. Information is classified for the target and mission giver's safety."

Weiss perked up, surprised that the knight had given her that much. She thought its words over, considering. Mission assigner. Singular. So… just one person sent these things after me? Mulling that possibility over, she hesitantly asked, "Is anybody allowed to know this sensitive information?"

"Selected individuals are listed as administrators for this mission."

A thrill traveled through Weiss, sensing an opening. "How do I become an administrator?"

"You must be permitted by a current administrator."

Got you! Oh, please, please, please… "And who are the current administrators?"

There was a painfully long moment where the knight fell silent. It was almost creepy at how intense its featureless face appeared as she held its gaze. Then-

"Active Administrators for Atlassian Knight-200 line: General James Ironwood, Specialist Winter Schnee."

Weiss felt her fledgling hopes deflate. Whatever this was, she knew her sister couldn't be involved, not if it meant leaving her alone at these robot's mercy. And she doubted General Ironwood would-

"Default Administrator: SDC CEO Jaques Schnee."

Weiss's thoughts ground to a halt, white noise filling her ears. Any sense of accomplishment or cleverness she'd had vanished in an instant.

In almost manic desperation, Weiss listened raptly, waiting, begging, pleading for the knight to say another name, any other name. But it didn't. The knight just looked down at her expectantly, as if waiting for her next question. She stared back with open horror, her pupils shrunken to pinpricks.

"Father?" she breathed, her voice tiny. "My father sent you?"

After a moment, the knight's head shot back up, its posture straightening back to attention. "That information is classified."

Forget panic. There wasn't even a name for the swirling, sinking sensation ripping through Weiss's gut, the straight ice that ran up her very bones. If her father was the one who did this… if it was him they were taking her to… How? Who would let him? Why would… how could-

Because he's Jaques Schnee, her mind answered numbly. How many times had she seen, either from a distance or right by his side, how he flaunted, reveled in his influence. How the world worked by his whims, his power. What he said was truth. What he wanted, happened.

And he wanted her, under his heel.

Her breathing grew choppier and harsher, a harsh coughing fit building as her chest ache grew worse and worse. She was hyperventilating, she knew this, but there was a disconnect between her mind and body as every worry and fear she'd agonized over the last half-year was suddenly a reality.

She twisted and turned against her bonds pulling at them desperately. She could feel her throat going raw, aware of panicked sounds leaving her mouth but uncaring how desperate she sounded or what nonsense she said. This couldn't be happening. This can't be happening!

Fear! Worry! Calm. Desperation. Calm.

Weiss froze, staring straight up at the curved ceiling as tears tracked down the side of her face. She sucked in ragged, heavy breaths as she Felt.

Calm. Closeness. Determination. Certainty.

Taking deep, shaky breaths, Weiss latched onto Ruby's feelings desperately. Ruby was close.

She's close. She's coming. I'm not alone. I am not alone. Focusing on steadying her breath, Weiss took another look around the ship. Counting the pilot, there were six knights on board. The only doors she saw looked like large sliding doors, likely to exit the craft. So there were only the six. She looked towards the front of the ship, out the viewscreen. The mountain range now loomed closer. At the base of the largest one looked like the skyline of a city, but she saw no lights. Where-

Weiss shut down those thoughts. The where didn't matter. It was the who that mattered. And… and Ruby wouldn't let her reach him.

...unless she didn't make it in time. If they took her to her father before Ruby caught up.

And then Ruby… would have to face her father.

Weiss's thoughts stopped. The world dimmed at the edges, her eyes going wide.

A flash went through Weiss's head, of everything her father had put her through… and put Ruby in her place.

A cold pit formed in her stomach.

Which then ignited.

Weiss's face cleared, her brow furrowing. She closed her eyes, her mind racing.

Think, Weiss. No weapons, no Dust, so… Semblances. Glyphs? No, there's nothing I could affect with them. Superspeed's useless, even if my chest wasn't killing me right now. Blake's clones? As a distraction maybe, but they can't touch anything without Dust. Maybe I could use them to confuse the knights into attacking each other? Are they that dumb? Oh, even if they are, it wouldn't matter. Unless I can break out of these straps, I'm never getting off this ship! She pulled against the straps again with all her might. There was just the slightest hint of give in them, enough to let her breathe easily enough. If she was just a little bit stronger, she-

Weiss's eyes shot open, hope bursting from her chest.

Of course. It was so simple, she could have hit herself.

In fact… "Excuse me?"

The knight looked back down, a bit quicker than previously. The noticeable rasp in Weiss's voice might have something to do with that. "Yes?"

"I… I have another question," she wheezed out.

"State your inquiry."

"Could you-" Weiss sucked in a harsh breath, then broke into a painful coughing fit. When it calmed down, she looked up at the knight pitifully, keeping her head flat against the gurney. "Could you come closer so I don't have to speak so loudly? My chest…" she trailed off, her eyes wet.

The knight processed this for a moment, then leaned forward over the gurney.

Weiss swallowed. "A… a little closer, please?"

The knight shuffled forward, its feet clanking against the floor.

"A… a little more?" Weiss licked her dry lips, her heart pounding painfully in her chest.

With one more solid step, the knight loomed over Weiss's body, lowering its head just a few inches away from hers. "Is this sufficient?"

Weiss clenched her hands tight, her nails digging into her palms. She stared right into the smooth black polymer of the knight's face… and smiled at the red glow that reflected back at her.

"Perfect."

And with all her might, Weiss rammed her forehead into the knight's face.

Stars erupted in Weiss's vision as she slammed her eyes shut, her head swimming from the impact. Despite everything, she couldn't stop from feeling like an idiot.

The knight barely budged from the impact, merely standing back up like nothing had happened. "Please refrain from self-harm. Future attempts to damage this unit or yourself will be met with increased measures to secure the patient for your own safety."

Weiss said nothing, her attention stuck on the blinding pain right between her eyes.

Then her heart leaped as the pain changed.

A wave of heat burst from her forehead, which quickly seemed to ripple out across her body, enveloping her head before moving down her torso, spreading to her limbs. The pain quickly started to fade as a cold sensation quickly crossed her skin. She managed to open her eyes a sliver, watching as the veins in her hands suddenly flashed visible in the faintest pale blue.

Seconds passed, Weiss ignoring everything except the coolness of her skin and the heat in her bones. Heat that was quickly gaining intensity.

There was a clank of metal, the knight cocking its head to the side. "Unknown aura fluctuation detected. What are you attempting?"

It took Weiss a full minute to respond. By then, her whole body was trembling. A ripple suddenly ran down her hair, the white strands gaining a pale bluish tinge, sparkling ice crystals trailing from them down to the floor.

"External temperature dropping to dangerous levels. Please cease aura fluctuation before you freeze."

The knight's words startled a pained giggle from Weiss. "Freeze?" She laughed again, body trembling from the inferno inside her. "When I'm like this, I don't freeze."

With a furious scowl, Weiss opened her eyes, red orbs blazing.

"I burn."

With all her might, Weiss pulled against the straps holding her down.

The metal buckles shattered like ice, the fibers tearing like tissue paper. The pressure finally off her, Weiss rolled off the gurney into a crouch, right at the feet of the knight.

Startled, the knight took a step back, bringing its rifle up. Weiss didn't know if its ammo was lethal or not, and she didn't wait to find out. Pushing some of her newfound power to her legs, she launched herself shoulder-first at the knight.

The knight stumbled at the impact, its arms being thrown out and it's rifle skittering across the floor.

Despite her desperation, Weiss didn't lose her common sense. No matter how much strength she had, flesh would give way to metal. She knew if she punched into the knight, she'd likely lose her hand when she went to pull it back. So, she tried a different approach.

As the knight stumbled back, Weiss reached up with both arms. Yelling in strain, she grabbed the knight's head with both hands, planted her foot against its chest, and pulled.

There was a screech of tearing metal, the knight letting out a startled, garbled hiss as its head came away in a burst of sparks. Motor control lost, the knight's body started to fall back. Weiss leapt back off its chest into the air. She caught sight of the other knights rushing forward, and quickly acted. Pulling her right arm back, she forced all her remaining strength into it as she threw the knight's head right into the chest of the nearest approaching target. The knight crumpled at its chest caved in, sparks and shrapnel exploding from the impact.

Two down, four left.

Her satisfaction died quickly, however, as the heat in her bones quickly fled, the power she'd built up already running dry. Her hair and eyes fading back to normal, she slammed chest first to the floor of the ship in an ungraceful heap. She wheezed as the wind was knocked out of her, chest burning. She forced herself to her knees, hearing the clanking of the remaining knights rushing forward. She looked up to see the two on her right and one on her left raising their rifles. Eyes going wide, she curved her fingers and threw her hands out to the side.

Two glyphs formed between her and the knights right when they pulled the trigger. Electricity burst from the guns, sputtering out against the spinning glyphs. Weiss winced at the sensation but kept the glyphs up. Okay, they're stunning weapons. So after a few more rounds, they'll start recharging, and-

Weiss gasped as she was grasped from behind, two cold metal arms wrapping around her chest and pinning her arms to her sides. "No!" she yelled as she was pulled off her feet.

"Please cease resisting," that same monotone voice droned behind her. She looked over her shoulder, seeing that it was the pilot that had grabbed her, the screen in front of the unmanned controls flashing "AUTO-PILOT" in bold green lettering. "You will only cause more damage to yourself."

"Want to bet!?" Weiss yelled back. Her eyes and hair glowing again, she threw her head back against the knight's chest. She gasped as pain erupted at the back of her skull, her vision swimming. But she felt the heat run down her skin and into her bones, reveling as it reached burning levels within seconds. She flexed her arms out, straining against the knight's hold. She pushed out of its hold just enough to get her arms out. Grasping the knight by the wrists, she braced both her feet against its thighs and pushed with all her might.

The knight's arms tore away at the shoulder, letting Weiss fall to the floor. The armless bot stumbled back, only to trip on the body of its headless brethren and fall back, flailing helplessly on the ground.

With her remaining strength, Weiss dropped one arm and grasped the other with both hands, lashing out with the other, swinging it at the nearest knight. But the knight flinched out of the way, Weiss's swing going wide. She tried to rush forward for another blow, but a metal hand grasped around her forearm and clenched tightly. Weiss gasped against the crushing grip and dropped the arm.

Weiss pulled back against the knight's grip, making it stumble forward. She tried to swing her fist at it, injury be damned, but found that arm grabbed by another knight.

"No!" Weiss struggled as the two knights pulled her off her feet, holding her up between them. Weiss kicked her feet desperately in the air, flailing her arms as best she could but to no luck. The power she'd built up burned out, and they were holding her too far away to strike at anything.

With her now restrained, Weiss watched helplessly as the one knight left not holding her went back to the controls for the ship. Damn it! she cursed in her head. Come on, think! There has to be something more I can-

Her thoughts came to an abrupt end as the entire craft jolted, and a giant red talon stabbed its way through the roof.

...what? Weiss thought numbly, staring up the sparking crimson claws poking through the metal.

"Grimm detected!" The armless knight shouted from its place on the floor.

"Attempting evasive maneuvers!" The mobile knight replied as it jumped into the driver's seat, pulling hard on the controls.

The ship pitched down hard, its engine whining against the strain. Weiss tried to struggle as the knights holding her shifted their footing against the ship's movements, but their grip held firm.

Through the viewscreen, Weiss saw darkened skyscrapers streak past as the ship leaned back and forth. The talon in the ceiling tensed as it dug in, the shrieking cry of a Grimm shaking the craft.

Suddenly, a green beam flashed past the viewscreen. The screech of rending steel pierced Weiss's eardrums, the glowing tips of four blades slicing around the talon. Another cry sounded, and the talon tensed. With a mighty jolt, the roof of the ship was torn off.

Weiss swung helplessly in the arms of the knights, watching the stars streak by the hole as the ship spun. The knight at the helm worked frantically to right the ship. Once the world stopped spinning, Weiss looked through the hole and stared.

Standing out starkly against the starry night, a glowing crimson Nevermore flapped in place before the hovering Manta, rose petals and sparks raining from its wings with every flap. And standing on its head glared down Ruby Rose, red cloak billowing in the wind. Crescent Rose's blade glinted in the moonlight, held in Ruby's battle stance. Above Ruby hovered Penny, backlit by the shattered moon as her blades fanned out like a deadly halo.

And despite the harsh look on her face, across the Link, Weiss could Feel Ruby sing.

Relief. Joy. Determination. Purpose.

"I'm only going to say this once."

Ruby's voice rang out above the wind. With the twitch of a finger, Crescent Rose started to transform, Ruby's eyes never leaving the knights.

"Give."

Now in rifle form, Ruby slammed a magazine into Crescent's base.

"Her."

Ruby raised the scope to her eye, which Weiss could have sworn glowed.

"Back."


Beta'd by Covert Weapon

A/n: There is no stable ground in these lands. Only cliffs from which to hang!

Seriously, I know I do this a lot, but if I think a chapter's running long and I see a good stopping point, I have to take it. Otherwise, this story would be one long incoherent ramble of a text document I wrote nonstop five years ago.

Yeah. Five years. I kinda forgot about that with all the... everything that was last year, but this previous Christmas? Fifth anniversary of this story's first chapter. That's... kinda nuts. Thank you to everyone who's been there from the start and everyone who's shown up along the way. We've got a long way before this trainwreck is over, and I hope you'll see through it with me to the end.

See ya at the next one!